Supporting Student Engagement in Learning

Besides assignments and exams, what steps can I take to support student engagement and integrity in learning? 

Explain to the students your philosophy of “learning over grades” at various times during the semester and continue to use the same phrase (i.e., learning over grades):

  • From the beginning of the semester, demonstrate this philosophy:
    • On Class Day 1, describe how what is outlined in your syllabus emphasizes learning over grades.
    • Review assignments that provide opportunities for improvement versus assessments that are the final evaluation of student competency related to the course goals and objectives.
  • Make sure to state and emphasize that the purpose of each course activity and assessment is to assist with the students’ learning. 
  • Describe how the materials and activities align directly with the learning objectives stated in the syllabus, making the ties among the materials, objectives, and goals transparent and concrete. 
  • Describe how learning and engaging in course materials and activities are providing students with the opportunity to develop their professional identity and are important to their careers.
  • Express the codes of ethics and conduct for your field and tie the concepts of academic integrity to the professional ethics the students will be required to uphold as a core of their professional identities and practices.
  • Provide clear definitions of academic integrity and related violations (e.g., plagiarism); provide resources for avoiding violations with some specific examples (e.g.,
  • Express that the journey from student to practitioner is a continuum and that the skills for life-long life-wide learning are a core part of evidence-informed and evidence-based practice. 
  • Share personal experiences you and your peers had during your time as a student and what learning experiences made the largest impact on you (e.g., recalling questions/tasks you missed on an exam/practical assessment that helped you remember clinical information later in your career).
  • Ask guest lecturers to share their thoughts on why student engagement and learning over grades is important. Give the guest lecturer some background information on this topic ahead of their scheduled date to speak/present.
  • Ensure guest speakers are aware of program philosophy regarding academic integrity and how to manage suspected violations.

When appropriate, have more advanced students work with newer student cohorts as tutors or peer mentors. They can have a large influence on providing a “bigger picture perspective” of why the learning is important versus the need to get a grade as well as emphasizing the need for student engagement.

Consider creating a key concepts’ guide to help students approach learning as course material builds over time.

Be responsive to students’ emails/contacts.

Emphasize the students’ well-being:

  • Send an email at the beginning of the semester asking each student to share anything that might be challenges for them during the semester.
  • Use check-in and check-out polls to take snapshots of overall student well-being from week to week.
  • Poll students for the “one thing that is still confusing” at the end of the class period.  Post a follow-up announcement to address themes that arise.
  • Encourage students to contact you if they have questions/concerns about a topic/assignment/assessment for the course.
  • Be open and empathetic when approached by students regarding challenges they are experiencing with their academics.
  • Build into the course design opportunities for students to earn some points back.
  • Consider extra opportunities for students to be re-assessed when the class has struggled with an assessment (for example, making up an exam with a ceiling of 80%).
  • Consider using specification grading in course design so that students proactively determine how much effort they want to put into a course (e.g., completion of 10 assignments is the minimal requirement for consideration of an A grade; 8 assignments a B grade, etc.).  Intent is to give students more control over work tied to grades.
  • Be sure students have resources for student health and UF support services.